In recent months I’ve developed a habit of taking a lunchtime walk two to three times a week, weather permitting. This has the dual benefit of providing me with some physical exercise and giving me time to listen to a variety of podcasts.
An additional benefit is that I get to walk through our local park which, while nothing particularly special as parks go (though it does have some rather nice gardens), is probably the closest to nature I get during a typical week (apart from our dog and two cats, that is).
Anyway, after walking through the park today I crossed the road and entered the cemetery, whereupon I immediately happened upon a squirrel. This was nothing extraordinary – I see squirrels on many of my lunchtime walks – but, since it ran across the path right in front of me, I paused to watch it for a moment. It kept stopping every few feet and looking furtively about in that way that squirrels do, before finally disappearing behind a tree. It was probably in view for half a minute or so.
But as I stood watching that little squirrel and the tree towards which it was headed, I was suddenly and deeply struck by the createdness of so many things around me – the squirrel, the birds I could hear chirping out their songs round and about, the many old trees that make the cemetery a peaceful and shady refuge… And as I considered all of this creation that surrounded me, an oft-quoted verse from Psalm 150 came to mind:
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:6)
I wondered how it could be that all of these created things somehow praise the Lord. I mean, okay, it’s easy to imagine a bird’s song as a kind of praise song. But a squirrel? A squirrel doesn’t sing or do anything that obviously looks or sounds like praise; it just goes about its squirrely business of gathering nuts, climbing trees, raising baby squirrels, and so forth. How on earth does a squirrel praise the Lord?
The answer came to me, at once glaringly obvious and stunningly profound in its simplicity. The squirrel praises the Lord simply by being a squirrel. Its very squirrelhood, which it can neither shed nor improve upon – is an anthem of praise to its creator, whether the squirrel realises it or not (without wishing to get into a discussion of animal rationality, I suspect not). And it doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is – it simply pours all its energies into the fullest possible expression of its essential squirrelness.
The same could be said of the trees, the flowers, the insects and the bees buzzing around them, the birds… in fact, all creation. Creation’s simple act of perfectly being what it is – no more, no less – rings out in a majestic song of praise to its creator.
We humans, it seems, are the only ones who constantly deplore and decry what we are while straining and striving to be something else. We want to be shorter or taller, cleverer or more artistic, better looking, more in control, richer, funnier, more popular… We live much of our lives very far removed from the simple, joyful state of the squirrel, who, I have no doubt, genuinely experiences some kind of creaturely delight in just being what it is, no more and no less.
And, as we run frantically from endeavour to endeavour, from one foolish attempt to be more or better or greater to the next, we add to all our exertions a great effort to try to find ways to worship and please God. We take our music and our songs and our church services and we metaphorically bow and scrape in hopes that our meagre offering will somehow be acceptable to our maker. And all the while, God would be happy to enjoy seeing us simply learn to be who we are.
We are the pinnacle of God’s creation, the crown jewel of his handiwork, his magnum opus. Perhaps there is no greater song of praise we can offer him than learning to revel in the full extent of our divine humanness. To put it another way, there is no greater worship than to revel in the youness of being you.
It’s amazing what you can learn from a squirrel.
[ Image: niXerKG ]